First published: 1993
Genre: Children’s classics, Sci-Fi, Dystopia
Author: Lois Lowry
Synopsis: Jonas lives in a perfect world. But when he is chosen to be the new Receiver of Memory, he soon realizes that things are not what they seem and that his seemingly perfect community harbors dark secrets.
I find it very difficult to review this book. I don’t know what to say and I don’t think I will be able to do it without spoilers, so fair warning. It’s probably one of the most thought provoking and also one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. It’s such a short book that I am amazed that so many ideas were touched on. But I feel like the shortness of the book is part of what makes it so remarkable. It doesn’t set out to present a to you an opinion, it doesn’t discuss the ideas it broaches in depth. It sort of just brings them to your attention and then lets you consider them.
Like so many (if not all) stories, The Giver is a story about love. And of course, as is always the case when it comes to love, it’s about choice. And it’s also about totalitarianism. Three points of a triangle. Totalitarianism is when you take away choice. But if you take away choice, you take away love, because love without choice is just an illusion. Love isn’t something that can be controlled. And totalitarianism seeks to control. If you take away love, then no choice has any meaning. Life doesn’t have much meaning.
But what if you could take away the memory of what love should be. Because another thing love isn’t is easy to define. How do you explain it with words? How do you ever do it justice? But what if you could take the memory of what being loved means? Then people would believe a flawed and incomplete definition, because it’s all they had. One of the questions I asked myself while reading this was, in such a situation, is love really gone? Is it possible to take the ability to love away from someone. And I found the concept disturbing.
Another question that this book posed is does a life devoid of colour, devoid of choice and devoid of all but the mildest experiences have any meaning? Can a life of “Sameness” bring any satisfaction? Can it bring happiness? Reading about life in the Community, I found it ridiculous. Appalling, even. I could never be happy living that life. I would rather die. But is the desire to lead a meaningful life something we gain through experience, or is it innate? Would growing up in that life, not knowing any different strip away the desire to live a meaningful life? To be happy and bring happiness to others? I wonder.
I don’t know what that tells you about the book. I could go on about my thoughts on it, but I doubt the rest would be any more helpful for review purposes. It’s just so difficult to review. It was an amazing read. If you like being challenged to think, if you like asking yourself difficult questions, then this is a book I do recommend. It’s also incredibly easy to read.